The Food of My Youth

“When my media stream fills with the sound of children crying out for their parents, that distinct wail that only a broken-hearted child can make… it’s then that I reach for the food of my youth. Corned-beef hash. Spam. Fried Bologna sandwiches.”

Published: Jul 9, 2018
Length: 7 minutes (1,750 words)

The Human Cost of the Ghost Economy

A reported personal essay in which Melissa Chadburn writes about her work, under cover, as a temp, and considers the effects of temporary employment on those who have limited power and little choice but to work for low wages with no job security. With support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Source: Longreads
Published: Dec 13, 2017
Length: 12 minutes (3,090 words)

Every Year The Tree

Melissa Chadburn’s moving recollection of the Christmas trees of her difficult youth—from the ones she lifted from a grocery warehouse near the home for girls she lived in, to the ones she’d cart home from Home Depot in her twenties, to the one she picked out with her partner, at 33.

Source: Lenny
Published: Dec 14, 2016
Length: 7 minutes (1,984 words)

The Throwaways

Chadburn’s beautiful, brutal essay pairs memories of poverty and the foster care system with an unlikely clarion call: pay your taxes. “Taxes are revolutionary,” she writes. “When I pay my taxes I am telling my community I value you.”

Source: The Rumpus
Published: Jan 25, 2012
Length: 19 minutes (4,876 words)

My Runaway Childhood

After an abuse-filled upbringing, the author left home for good at thirteen, legally emancipated herself from her mother, and had to take control of her own life.

Source: Narratively
Published: Jul 14, 2014
Length: 14 minutes (3,748 words)

Here We Are Becoming Champs

On boxer Manny Pacquiao and gay marriage:

“It’s here at this church that Manny Pacquiao comes to pray after his fights. He kneels down and gives thanks. In that same way we knelt with a rosary all day when my kuya died of AIDS. All day for seven days, with lots of food, and lots of prayers, on your knees everyday. It’s what we do when someone dies. I heard that a woman had a pin in one of her knees and couldn’t kneel and I pictured a sewing needle stuck there and I silently wished to get pricked by that same needle— because I couldn’t see how what I was doing there in that church was helping any of us out there on the dirt—in the land, on the fields with the farmers, and the trash heaps, and the kids with the little blue-brown faces left by the chapel, or the boys, with their bloodied underpants and soiled shorts, and all the musk from all the work, and the distant gaze from all the glue. How was this rosary tending to this life?”

Source: The Rumpus
Published: Jun 11, 2012
Length: 7 minutes (1,951 words)